How it works
“We can all be richer, both financially and community-wise, if we keep our money local, do our best to support our local businesses, and do as little outside sourcing as possible.” Steffen Root, owner of Berkshire Bike & Board
Anyone in the Berkshire Region may spend BerkShares or accept BerkShares for payment. BerkShares can be obtained at participating bank branches in exchange for U.S. dollars at a rate of 95 cents per BerkShare. These federal dollars remain on deposit at the BerkShares Exchange Banks in order to allow citizens to redeem BerkShares for dollars at the same exchange rate. For example, 95 dollars yield 100 BerkShares and 100 BerkShares yield 95 dollars. BerkShares can be spent at face value to pay for the goods or services offered by participating businesses—for example, 10 BerkShares can be used for a $10 purchase.
Every business listed in the BerkShares Directory and displaying a BerkShares sticker has committed to taking full or partial payment in BerkShares. Be aware that each business can accept BerkShares on its own terms, so some restrictions may apply. Change for purchases in BerkShares is usually made in BerkShares. Customers paying with federal dollars may also ask for BerkShares in change. For more information about becoming a BerkShares business, click here.
How does the 5% discount work? The five percent discount is part of the dollars-to-BerkShares exchange rate, not a discount given at the point-of-sale. That 5% doesn't "go" anywhere - no one is making a percentage on BerkShares transactions. To explain more clearly, let's follow 100 BerkShares through a common transaction: One day, you decide to go out for a nice dinner.
You start by going to the bank to exchange some dollars for BerkShares. The 95 federal dollars that you bring in turn into 100 BerkShares upon exchange. When you go to dinner that night, the total cost comes to $100. The restaurant accepts BerkShares in full, so you pay entirely in BerkShares. At this point you have spent 95 federal dollars and received a $100 meal - a five percent discount for you.
The owner of the restaurant now has 100 BerkShares. They can either spend them with another vendor that accepts BerkShares (in which case the 100 BerkShares will buy $100-worth of goods or services) or the restaurant owner can decide to return the BerkShares to the bank. If they bring the BerkShares back to the bank, the banker deposits the 100 BerkShares you spent on dinner and gives the restaurant owner $95 federal dollars (the same amount you originally brought to the bank).
The end result? When you go to the bank to get BerkShares you immediately receive a 5% boost in buying power. If the business owner who accepts BerkShares spends the local currency you have spent then you have received a discount but the business has not given a discount! If the business owner decides to go back to the bank with your BerkShares you have received a discount and the business has given a discount. They have also distinguished themselves as a locally owned business committed to other local businesses, and they have gained a loyal customer!